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26 Secrets Personal Organizers Would Never Tell You for Free

Industry experts reveal the dirty details to help keep your home organized and clean.

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Close up carton boxes with belongings man sitting on sofa hold phone on background, wait call to delivery service moving at new house concept, banner for website header design with copy space for textfizkes/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Create five piles

When you’re organizing, you should sort everything into five piles: move to another room, donate, give to a specific person, throw away and, finally, the “marinating” pile. Pack up the marinating items, and label the box with a date that’s six months to a year later. If you never open the box before that date, you can safely discard those items. These kitchen organizing ideas will save your sanity, too.

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Young woman throwing clothes in walk in closet. Mess in wardrobe and dressing room conceptMariakray/iStock/Getty Images Plus

To make an organizing project go faster:

Create rules about what you’re keeping and what you’re discarding. In your closet, for example, you can decide to give away any clothing that’s not between size x and size y, that’s stained or that needs to be repaired. With periodicals, you can decide not to keep anything that’s more than a year old. To speed things up even more, see the 24 things in your house to throw out, according to professional organizers.

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Woman shredding receipts in paper shredder, close-upMartin Poole/DigitalVision

It will always take you at least five times longer

Sorting through a box of personal papers will always take you far longer than you think it will. Be sure you know which everyday documents you should shred and set them aside from the recycle pile to be disposed of properly. Make sure you know these dos and don’ts from professional organizers.

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Colorful storage boxes on shelfkittimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Avoid lids

Avoid lids on laundry baskets, bins and other containers. They just make it harder to put things away. For other items, I’m a huge fan of clear sweater boxes, like these. Not only do they hold sweaters in your closet, but they’re perfect for holding beans, rice and pasta in your pantry, kids’ toys and more. They fit on almost any shelf in any home and can hold most of the stuff in your house. I order them by the case.

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Front view of a storgae unit in a home. The storage unit has many draws and compartments for storage. Some household objects have been stored on top of the unit.DGLimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Your goal should be to remove the clutter, not create more storage space

People who think they’re disorganized always run out and start buying baskets, containers and hooks. You come home and try to use them, and they’re not the right type or size, because you didn’t sort through your stuff first. That’s just backward. All those new containers just end up adding to your clutter. Is storing harder in the kitchen? Here’s how to store pots and pans the right way.

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stack of brochures, files and documents, on mess desktop, monitor of pc in backgroundSilviaJansen/iStock/Getty Images Plus

The number one problem for all my clients: too much paper

The whole idea of a paperless society is a complete myth. People are seriously scared to get rid of it. Remember, 80 percent of the paper you get you don’t need to keep. So it’s imperative to keep weeding out every single day, whether that’s magazines, catalogs, mail, receipts or anything else.

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brown leather sofa on light backgroundforas05/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Are you holding on to a big piece of the past?

If you’re keeping something that doesn’t fit in your home for sentimental reasons—say, Aunt Jenny’s blue recliner or Grandma’s chandelier—recognize it’s the memory you cherish, not the item. Then take a picture of it and give it away to someone who actually has space for it who will love it. That said, if you really love that paperweight collection, grandma’s old photographs or that heirloom quilt, why are you letting them get ruined, moldy or eaten by moths in cardboard boxes in the attic? Honor your favorite keepsakes by getting them out and displaying them. You can go ahead and get rid of these kitchen items, too.

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Unrecognizable man holds a box full of donated clothing. He is donating or receiving the clothing.SDI Productions/E+

Sure, you could sell that item on eBay…

…but are you interested in finishing your organizing project or starting a new career hocking used stuff? Unless you sell online all the time or need the money, I recommend just giving things away so you can move on.

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Purple tulips in a glass jar standing on the modern kitchen with white tileChiociolla/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Watch out for flat surfaces…

…which can quickly become drop zones for clutter. When my clients have a dining table that is always getting covered with junk, I’ll have them clear it off, put a flower arrangement in the middle, and set it with place settings. That usually prevents them from parking stuff there. If you don’t have much space in your place, here’s how to make a small room look bigger.

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This is an image of a brown purse on the passenger seat of a car with contents spilling out. There is a pen, makeup item, phone and banana laid out around the purse. The car interior is grey.melissabrock1/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Anything that needs to go somewhere should be in your car…

…not in your house. Keep your coupons there in a clear folder so you have them if you need them. Get an errand basket to hold items that need to be returned. Use crates to store kids’ toys and emergency supplies. Also, a car trash bag is a simple thing—get one!

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Close-up Of A Businesswoman Marking Schedule On Calendar From Diary At WorkplaceAndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Put everything on your calendar

Even errands, exercise, cleaning the house should go on it. Then make sure you prioritize the things that are important to you. If it’s not on your schedule, it’s not on your life. Add organizing your pantry to the calendar! These are our best pantry organization ideas.

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Shot of kitchen sink full of dirty dishesNickyLloyd/E+

My biggest secret?

Don’t procrastinate. If you postpone things that take a few minutes, it adds up and suddenly you’re looking at several hours to clear your clutter. Always open your mail right away, do dishes right after you use them, and put things away as soon as you’re done with them. Here are 5 dishwashing tricks for people who can’t stand washing dishes.

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Close-up of hands searching in a file cabinetTommL/iStock/Getty Images Plus

If you have lots of piles of papers you’re always looking through…

… that’s a big time waster. Here’s what I suggest: every time you look at a piece of paper, put a red dot on it. If you’re ending up with 10 or 20 dots on one piece of paper, you need a new system to deal with your paperwork.

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Warehouse building with self storage units. Self storage facility. Roll up doors on self storage facility. One door open with boxes and furniture in doorway.NoDerog/E+

Please, get rid of that storage unit

You could buy all the stuff that’s in there for the price of the annual rental fee—and that doesn’t include the cost of the moving truck and your time. Plus I’m sorry, but the items you own are almost never worth as much as you think. And even if they are, who cares? That’s still not a good excuse to hold onto things you don’t use.

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Top view of lots of plastic kitchen utensils, mostly containersFotografiaBasica/E+

My favorite tip for a roomier kitchen…

…is to adjust cabinet shelves; it can create a lot more space. Also, get that popcorn machine, bread machine and the other huge appliances off your counter. If you don’t use it every week, store it in the attic or basement and get it out only when you need it. And do you really need all those plastic containers? Most people have cabinets full of them, but they only ever use a few. Figure out which ones you really use and donate the rest. Learn what things you shouldn’t be storing on your kitchen counter.

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Open dishwasher with clean dishes in the white kitchenHazal Ak/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Here’s my favorite little kitchen tip:

Always load the dishwasher in an organized way. So instead of throwing all the silverware into the utensil box, put the forks in one area, the spoons in another, and the knives in another and when you’re unloading, you just grab all the spoons and put them in the drawer. Check out 15 things you didn’t know your dishwasher could do.

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Woman's Hands Selecting Clothesbymuratdeniz/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Go into your closet today and hang everything backward on the rod

Once you wear something, hang it the normal way. A year from now, if you still have some things still hanging backward, you’re obviously not wearing them, so get rid of them.

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Different knitted sweaters on hangers close-up on the white wall backgroundChiociolla/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Here’s a simple way to transform your closet:

Switch to one type of hanger. It makes a huge difference. If you have varying kinds, they get caught on each other, they’re not the same height and you can’t see everything as well. I especially love the thin hangers that are covered in velvet. Because they’re super slim, you can fit more into your closet, and your clothes won’t slip off them.

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Open wardrobe inside. Men an women clothes.Csondy/E+

Maximize your closet space

Put in an extra tension rod so you can hang shirts on top and skirts on the bottom, and always add hooks to hang jewelry and scarves if you have extra wall space. You can even put a chest of drawers in there if you have the room. These cleaning mistakes might be making your home dirtier.

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Shoe rack hanging on a wooden door, storage for shoes close-upcerro_photography/iStock/Getty Images Plus

I love hanging shoe bags

In addition to shoes, I use them for gloves and hats in winter, for sunblock, sunglasses and goggles in summer and for crafts, toiletries and makeup.

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Young woman during reconstruction of apartment, holding color chart and choosing the right color for the wallAleksandarNakic/E+

You’re going to be more motivated to get an area organized…

…if you make some changes you can get excited about. When you’re doing your closet, for example, throw up a coat of new paint, put down some cool floor tiles or a rug or add a beautiful fixture. It will make you want to keep it organized.

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Cropped shot of a young woman carrying boxes while moving into her new homekupicoo/E+

Ditch the cardboard

One client asked me to help carry a bunch of cardboard storage boxes into her newly renovated house. As I opened the first one, out came hundreds of cockroaches. That’s why you should never use cardboard. You name the pest; I assure you it loves cardboard. Did you know you can’t recycle cardboard boxes like these?

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Woman cleaning the counter in the kitchenWavebreakmedia/Getty Images

I swear I’m not a neat freak

Being organized doesn’t mean everything is in its place; it means everything has a place. If you can get your house ready for a surprise guest in 30 minutes, then you’re organized. Believe it: I have not one, but two junk drawers in my kitchen—and I sleep just fine at night. Need to get organized? Here are the most popular cleaning and organizing products of 2019.

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Senior couple looking at a instant film photo of themselves.SolStock/E+

Your kids will be so grateful…

…if you label and organize your photos now and if you stick a note on keepsakes explaining their significance. We settle a lot of estates, and it’s frustrating to the next generation when they don’t understand why something was left to them.

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Shot of a little girl painting a picture of a rainbowhttp://

Parents feel so guilty…

…about throwing away their children’s artwork. My solution? A Li’l Davinci art cabinet. It’s a beautiful frame that you can hang up, but you can also store up to 50 pieces of art inside it. Don’t miss out on our best kitchen hacks for an organized workspace.

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Directly above view of a messy desk at home officezoranm/iStock/Getty Images Plus

My biggest motivator for being organized:

I have more time to have fun and be spontaneous. Start by getting rid of unnecessary items causing clutter in your home and following these tips for organizing your kitchen and clearing the clutter.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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